22 feb 2012

The Paradox of Psychoanalysis

Psychoanalysis rejects the notion that surface motivations, or intentions held consciously in the mind, are sufficient. It delves deeper down. It seems naive to accept human consciousness as self-sufficiently aware of itself.

Yet these deeper motivations are inherently less knowable than the contents of consciousness. The human mind cannot know itself consciously, but it can know even less about the unconscious, and what it can know it can only know through the conscious mind's ability to construct systems of thought.

With literary criticism, for example, we might distrust what the author says about his or her own work. It might be self-serving, a conscious lie, or simply a statement that does not reveal the real, hidden motives. But we have no way of knowing better. It seems even more naive to suppose that we can uncover the unconscious of a writer with any greater degree of certainty.

20 feb 2012

translation experiment (iii)

Here is a 3rd attempt. It's closer to the poem that I would write itself, but not quite there yet. Sometimes that involves getting closer, not further from the original, even if further from literality in some instances. I plan to do this with all twenty poems in this particular book.
Now, with so many hours getting left behind,
forgetting already their shaping and possession,
I feel once gain, in a flash of wings behind glass
reversing the darkness of the skies,
as though, with their plumage of major poets,
petrel and kingfisher had come to inform me
that no more than the precisely necessary change had occured
in this thread of life on which I succeed myself.

Atencia is a wonderful poet from Málaga who stopped writing between the early sixties and about '76. When she came back to poetry she developed into one of the most strikingly original poets in the contemporary Spanish language. She's received a lot of attention among American Hispanists as well. Her poetry perpetually plays with the border between self and non-self, inside and outside. Here we see the speaker in her house, behind window panes, being advised by messenger birds from the sea that the thread of her life continues. There have been changes, but no more than the necessary ones. There is an equilibrium, an equanimity.

19 feb 2012

Translation Experiment (ii)

Here's a second version. Not a poem yet, but maybe 2/3rds of one.

Now that so many hours are getting left behind
and I’ve forgotten by now their shape and property
I feel once more in the flash of wings behind the panes
that starts to undo the dark sky
as though with their wings of major poets,
the petrel and the kingfisher had come to let me know
that this thread of life in which I succeed myself
has still not changed any more than was necessary.

[Oriiginal goes like this:
Ahora que tantas horas van quedándose atrás
y olvido ya su hechura y pertenencia,
vuelo a sentirme en un aletear tras de los vidrios
que empieza a deshacer la oscuridad del cielo
como si, con sus plumas de poetas mayores,
viniesen el petrel y el martín pescador a avisarme
de que aún no ha cambiado más de lo preciso
este hilo de vida en que me sucedo.

A Translation Experiment

Here is a first version of a poem by María Victoria Atencia:

Now that so many hours are shifting to the back
and I forget already their shape and property
I once again feel in the flash of wings behind the panes
that begins to undo the darkness of the sky
as if, with their wings of major poets,
the petrel and the kingfisher had come to let me know
that this thread of life in which I succeed myself
has not changed more than the precise degree necessary.

The experiment will consist of making this translation of a poem into a poem, pushing it as far as I can without making it no longer a translation at all. I don't consider this translation to be a poem in the least. There will be words or phrases that will stay in the final version. Atencia uses wonderfully rich words words like "hechura" and "aletear," "pertenencia" and "preciso." My translation should be almost Yeatsian. I could use the word "fashioning," straight out of "Sailing to Byzantium," instead of "shape," for "hechura." I wouldn't go so far as to say 'the bell-beat of their wings above my head" for "aletear." Pertenencia and preciso are hard, because they each suggest more than one meaning. Pertenencia is two kinds of belonging: a human being belonging to an organization, and property belonging to someone. Possession might be better than property. Both words are polyvalent in English. Property belongs to me, but is also a trait or characteristic. Possession is property but also invasion by an alien spirit. Preciso means necessary, and precise. I used a periphrasis in my 1st version. 'Me sucedo" (I take my own place / I succeed myself). I believe Atencia could be thinking of Quevedo's "presentes sucesiones de difuntos." "Let me know" might be too flat for "avisarme."

Of course, I need to also find a convincing rhythmic shape (hechura) for the poem. That does not come automatically by any means.

16 feb 2012

Enjambment (3)

Now let's take part of the Chorus from Henry V. Note how the "positive" description of the French constrasts metrically with the negative one of the "poor condemnèd English."

Proud of their numbers and secure in soul,
The confident and over-lusty French
Do the low-rated English play at dice;
And chide the cripple tardy-gaited night
Who, like a foul and ugly witch, doth limp
So tediously away. The poor condemned English,
Like sacrifices, by their watchful fires
Sit patiently and inly ruminate
The morning's danger, and their gesture sad
Investing lank-lean; cheeks and war-worn coats
Presenteth them unto the gazing moon
So many horrid ghosts.

Enjambment (2)

The 2nd example is from Thomas Hardy. Here you can pause at the end of the lines for rhetorical effect, even when there is no punctuation.

Enjambment (1)

To understand enjambment you first have to understand end-stopped lines. Here is a poem without any significant enjambments at all. Each line is a separate unit.